Blinken says Washington approved use of US weapons by Ukraine inside Russia

By Humeyra Pamuk

PRAGUE (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden approved Ukraine using U.S. weapons to strike targets inside Russia that were attacking the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, after Kyiv sought authorization from Washington in recent weeks, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed on Friday.

Speaking at a news conference in Prague after an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers, Blinken did not specifically say whether Biden's authorization could expand to include other Russian cities and targets that are deeper inside Russia.

He said Washington's move, a marked change in policy by Biden, who had steadfastly refused to allow Ukraine to use American weaponry for strikes inside Russia, was a result of U.S. strategy of adjusting and adapting to the battleground. Now, he said, the U.S. is responding to what it has seen in and around the Kharkiv region.

"Over the past few weeks, Ukraine came to us and asked for the authorization to use weapons that we're providing to defend against this aggression, including against Russian forces that are massing on the Russian side of the border and then attacking into Ukraine," Blinken said.

"And that went right to the President, and as you've heard, he's approved use of our weapons for that purpose. Going forward, we'll continue to do what we've been doing, which is as necessary adapt and adjust," Blinken said.

Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, is 19 miles (30 km) from the border with Russia.

It is the second time this year that Biden has quietly relaxed his policy on weapons supplies for Ukraine. Earlier this year, he bent to calls to send long-range missiles known as ATACMS to Kyiv.

The U.S. is the biggest supplier of weapons to Ukraine in its battle against the full-scale invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2022.

U.S officials said on Thursday that U.S. policy would continue to prohibit the Ukrainian military from using ATACMS, which have a range of up to 186 miles (300 km), and other long-range U.S.-supplied weapons for deep strikes inside Russia.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Prague; Additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Doina Chiacu in Washington)